The Expansion at the St Louis Art Museum

Dawn Griffin Posted by
St. Louis Nov 2007

Last night I went to the public unveiling of the Art Museum Expansion. You can check out the full story on the museum website. The expansion will be on the south side between the museum and the zoo. The parking will be located under the new building and there will be a dedicated entrance in the rear for tour and school buses. In addition to the new exhibition space the main floor of the expansion will host a restaurant. A new, fully accessible entrance will be located directly off Fine Arts Drive.

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Present last night was David Chipperfield the design architect. He discussed his process and the practical and philosophical goals of the project. Practically, the museum needs to create gallery space, expand visitors amenities and add to the supportive infrastructure. Philosophically the goals are much more complex. First there is the need for the expansion to be compatible with its counter part and equally important it must be incorporated into the landscape. The desire was for a building appropriate for its time, a modern structure. The expansion requires a distinct, architectural character of it own yet needs to comfortably stand side-by side with Cass Gilbert.

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Incorporating the expansion into the landscape means creating a long, low building with pavilion quality and allowing the park into the museum with light and strategically placed windows. These goals, of course, produce a few obstacles for the architect. 18th century paintings and sunlight have a contentious relationship and placing the car-park under the expansion requires attention to the new arrival sequence. Most confounding though is how to give stature and prominence to the low-rise expansion. The new structure has to have the presence of a public building and cannot be bullied by its older counterpart. The architect’s solution will be in the finish materials. The exterior wall will be made of polished concrete panels which will made on site from Missouri river aggregate.

I can’t wait until 2011!

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